April 27, 2016

Thank You, Prince!

What If time's only reason'
Was to give us all somethin' 2 fear'
And if so y'all, the end of the journey's so clear

It is time. Time? Interesting choice of words.  I'll explain later, but for now it is time for me to finally try to express this onslaught of emotions that have been constantly bombarding my brain since last Thursday.  You see, last Thursday was April 21st, 2016 and at 10:07 a.m., my world greatly changed.  Wait, that is a very selfish thing for me to say for it was not MY world that changed.  It was the ENTIRE world that changed for we lost one of the greatest musical icons of all time.  For it was at that time that Prince Rogers Nelson was pronounced dead at his Paisley Park Studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota.  The collective hearts of thousands of fans skipped beats when we heard the reports. We held our breaths hoping to hear it wasn't so, but eventually it was confirmed that Prince had left the building and was headed to the after-show.  While I have fought with how to put down the words to mourn his loss, I came to the realization that I was approaching this all wrong.  I don't want to mourn him.  I want to celebrate him.  I want to tell the world how he saved me! How much his music changed my life and how much it has affected my life over the years! I'm going to do my best to put this into words and into some kind of coherent form, so bear with me. 

It's not a thousand years away, it's not that far my brother
when men will fight injustice instead of one another
its not that far if we all say yes and only try
then Heaven on Earth we will find

I first remember seeing Prince on American Bandstand back in 1979 when he performed I Wanna Be Your Lover and remember thinking, "What a strange, little man!" But the music had me interested.  Then 1980 rolled around and Prince taught me that it was okay to have a Dirty Mind.  He had me wanting to go Uptown where we could Partyup and Do It All Night.  I was hooked after that.  Then when Controversy dropped, I went to my friends and was like, "You have to check this out!" But most of my friends weren't jumping on the purple-party bus yet. YET! That is until they heard those words, "Don't worry, I won't hurt U, I only want U 2 have some fun." Yeah, 1999 brought about a bunch of them to my way of thinking and the ones that didn't come around then sure as hell did when Prince dropped his next album.  But we will talk about that in a minute. 1999 was a revelation for a lot of people to the musical genius of Prince but that was because they hadn't been paying attention in class.  School had been in session for four years now and they were a little tardy.  My boy was bad! From the synthesizer -laden funk of 1999 and DMSR all the way to the rock-a-billy sound of Delirious, he could do it all.  Plus this was the first album cover to mention The Revolution.  Then when we wondered how Prince  could top these last three albums, he threw down the purple gauntlet to the musical world and announced, "I am here!!! Where are U?"

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
2 get through this thing called life

It was 1984 and Prince only wanted to see us in the Purple Rain and things would never be the same.  For him, for me, for the world.  He would become a musical icon like the world had never seen.  The world would forever know Prince because of this album and his music would resonate around the globe. As for me, it was a dark time for my soul.  I was in that rebellious teenage time of my life and much like the movie, didn't have the best home life.  My step-father was a drunk (I won't say alcoholic because they go to meetings) and would often fight with my mother.  To say things were bad at home would be an understatement.  Unlike the kid, I didn't have music to fall back on since I can't play an instrument or carry a tune to save my life.  But there is one thing I discovered I could do.  I could write.  I studied his lyrics and even the back of the Purple Rain album cover and thought, I can write just as well.  And I started putting pen to paper.  I grabbed a notebook and started writing.  Before I knew it, poem after poem flowed from my pen.  That was my escape from the world. When things got bad, I would drive outside of town to this abandoned road and sit near this condemned bridge and just write.  Imagine my surprise when I saw Graffiti Bridge. But if it wasn't for Prince's music back then, I don't know if I would have made it out of those teenage years in one piece. He taught me how to find my Paisley Park and made me want to find The Ladder.  The funny thing about my writings, I was very protective of them and let very few people read them.  They were too personal.  I did have some that were somewhat generic that I didn't mind letting people read and it was always funny to watch their reaction. It was always the same.  "It feels like you are talking about me." they would say.  I've been told it is a gift I should share but I can't.  I am too afraid.  Maybe one day, after I am gone, they will be shared with the world, but not now. 

Is it me or did the room just get darker
Is it me or did I just lay down and die
Is this a dream or did the world just crumble at my very feet
How in heaven will I ever be alright

As I grew older, I still continued to listen to Prince and I still continued to write.  But it was different now.  I would close my eyes and I could see sounds in my head and hear colors.  Then I was able to translate that to the paper and sometimes even I was amazed at what I wrote. My senior year in high school, I took a dual credit English class where we had to not only do our normal high school work but also the work for our Freshman year of college.  We had do a lot of writing in this class and the teacher would often have us read other students papers.  It got to the point where people would argue over who got to read mine.  The teacher even wanted to so she pulled rank and started reading mine to the class after we turned in each assignment.  I was mortified.  I wanted to crawl under the desk and hide but I couldn't.  One day she asked me, "How do you do it?" What's your inspiration?" Staring down at my desk, I whispered back my answer, "Prince." Then the bell rang signaling the end of the class and I ran out of the room as fast as I could.  I don't think I mentioned this, but I hate public speaking and crowds and when she called on me, I freaked out.  I wasn't just writing poems anymore though.  I was writing short stories too and the notebooks were piling up.  So was my Prince musical collection. Then it was off to college and a whole new world.  After a while, I decided that this (college) is not what I wanted to do with my life and left.  This was another one of those dark trying times for my soul so who did I turn to? Yep, you guessed it, Prince.  And what was his answer?  "The feeling U get when U fall in love, not with a girl or a boy but the Heavens above! LOVESEXY!" It was 1988 and the Lovesexy album had just come out and I must have played Anna Stesia 100,000 times.  I found a lot of comfort in that album. I am not religious per se but I do believe in God.  I just have a hard time with the different churches that say that they are right and the others are wrong.  For a while there though, I had lost faith but that album got me believing again.  Then when I saw the Lovesexy concert in Cincinnati, it was like a pilgrimage.  Prince took us to church that night and I swore that it had surpassed even the Purple Rain concert. There was something in the air that night that I can't describe.  It was Lovesexy or maybe it was Love4OneAnother but there was definitely a connection amongst the entire crowd.  Once again, Prince and his music had "saved" me at a low point in my life.

And when my voice rose, so did the sun
When the trees sang the harmony as one
Every living soul sang the most beautiful
Melody ever sung

As the years went by, I continued my "obsession" with all things purple music related and my pen continued to put words on paper.  Then it happened.  I met her.  I met my Apollonia.  My Mary Sharon.  I met my wife. And how did I do it? By listening to Prince. That started us talking and then the rest was history.  She even helped me try to organize my writings which were just notebooks stuffed into boxes.  When we finally got things somewhat situated, I counted what I had.  Turns out I had written just over 1600 different pieces since I had started. That's a lot of writing but believe it or not, it wasn't a lot of time.  When I first started writing, it would take me a while to write something but there have been times where it takes me no time at all.  I once wrote a poem for a friend to give to their girlfriend. She told me how she felt.  In less than five minutes I had a 36 line poem for her and she loved every line.  So did her girlfriend who to this day has no idea I wrote it. Anyway, things were going great for a while. But after several years, I would be turning to Prince once again to get me through another dark time, the break-up of my marriage. It was 1995 and The Gold Experience was just coming out.  So I had the previous year's Come album, The Black Album (Even though I already had it. Shhhhh, don't tell anyone!) and The Gold Experience to get me through this.  So I funked out a lot with The Black Album and listened to a lot of Dark and I Hate U.  As for my writing, it stopped.  Not because of lack of inspiration because I was flooded with emotions right now and should be able to pen page after page but I couldn't.  My wife, in an attempt to hurt me, destroyed all my notebooks, while I was out of town on business (at the time I was doing executive protection).  The only thing I had left of my writing was the notebook I had with me that had around 20 pieces.  After that, I had no urge to write.  I don't know why.  I just didn't.  I retreated to my purple music world and let the music flow over me and through me and that's how I eventually got my stuff together.  I remembered how I felt after the Lovesexy concert and vowed that I would try to see Prince every chance I got to see if I could reach that purple high again.

From out of the darkness, before there was time
There came a sound that enters the mind
Through a door that's deep in your soul
Through every pore of your body it goes
And in a light too bright to behold
Is a truth more shiny than gold
And as sure as this candle burns
Every soul must return
Into the light, into the light

Since then, I have seen Prince in concert several times.  I saw the Love4OneAnother Tour at the State Theater in Detroit and then the opening night of the Jam of the Year Tour in Pine Knob (outside Detroit), both in 1997. After the Jam of the Year show, I started writing again.  Not only that but I added painting to the mix.  I had always been an artist but never really pursued it.  Back in school, I had taken art because my family wanted me to and I wanted them to leave me alone but I didn't enjoy it.  How is it art if the teacher says you have to do it this way or that way? That's not art.  But now I was back to painting.  Mostly landscapes.  Earlier I talked about escaping to the middle of nowhere, well, now I painted the middle of nowhere and escaped into my painting.  Want to know a secret? When I was in school, I was so sad about my home life, I placed a teardrop into every art project I did and no one ever knew.  I still do that to this day even though I am not sad.  I guess it's my thing.  Or maybe I'm just weird.  Anyway, it's a secret so don't tell anyone.  Oh, wait, I went off on a tangent there. Sorry.  Back to the concerts. Let's see... oh yeah,  next up was the 2000 Hit N Run Tour when I saw him here in Nashville (where I moved to in 98).  It was my birthday present from my girlfriend.  Because of my childhood, I have a hard time from just before my birthday in November until after Christmas.  I don't have the best memories during that time of year and this year wasn't much different.  But Prince made it all better and partied like it was 1999 even though it was 2000.  Next was the Musicology Tour in 2004. My girlfriend and I had broken up and I had no one to go with so a friend of mine who is a nurse said she would go but warned me she didn't like Prince.  She basically went out of pity I think and couldn't stand to see me alone.  She was impressed with our seats.  Since I was a member of the NPGMC, I was on the front. Then the show started and I forgot about everything and partied the rest of the night.  Afterwards, I told my date thanks for coming and putting up with Prince, her response? "Oh my God! That was the best concert I have ever been to in my life! Are they all like this?" We spent the next several hours talking about his other shows I had seen and his music.  I think I converted her that night. It would be eight years before I would see Prince again.  This time I drove all the way to Chicago for opening night of the Welcome 2 Chicago shows in 2012.  This show seemed different. I don't know why but I didn't feel that same rush afterwards. I contributed it to having heard so many of the Welcome 2 shows that I knew the show by heart. But I was worried if Prince had lost his magic to rejuvenate me.  I still bought his music when it was released and still got a thrill from the new music but the live shows was where it was at.  Now it wasn't and that scared me. Then last year, I saw Prince & 3rdEyeGirl on their HitNRun Tour in Louisville, Kentucky.  Turns out Chicago was just a fluke for me.  Because that magic was back.  Before the show, Hannah made an announcement about recording saying that "your technology cannot capture what you are about to witness on this stage tonight" and she was right.  I walked out of the Louisville Palace, no, I floated out of the Palace on a purple high that lasted weeks.  Then a few weeks ago I see a tweet that Prince bringing his Piano & A Microphone Tour to Atlanta which is only 3 1/2 hours away.  I knew I was going to be there and I was.  This time I didn't need him to get me through any trying times.  I have a loving woman by my side that will be there the rest of my life that supports me through every trial and tribulation.  This time I was there for him.  I was there to witness Prince in this once in a lifetime opportunity.  Just him, his piano and a microphone.  Oh, and that voice.  Don't forget that voice.  That's why I was there and when it was over,  I knew I had witnessed something special.  What I didn't know was that I had experienced Prince live for the last time.  As I left The Fox Theatre that night, I was already game planning my next Prince concert and thinking what cities were close enough to me for me to attend.  Little did I know that one week later, I would be crying while staring at the TV in disbelief at the headline, "Prince Dead at 57!"

He taught an integrated world 2 sing
The color u are don't mean a thing
Everybody's a star all the everyday people sang

Prince encouraged the New Breed to stand up and started a Revolution that led to the New Power Generation who taught us Love4OneAnother so we could stop The War.  That way U can Free Urself!  I didn't always understand, stand under, what Prince said but some of his quotes, lyrics and statements had very deep meaning.  He used to talk about not paying attention to birthdays and calendars and keeping track of time.  There's an interesting quote on the internet about time that makes me think of Prince.  "Time doesn't exist, clocks exist. Time is just an agreed upon construct. We have taken distance (one rotation of the earth, and one orbit of the sun), divided it into segments, then given those segments labels. While it has its uses, we have been programmed to live our lives by this construct as if it were real. We have confused our shared construct with something that is tangible and thus have become its slave. Because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out." I could just see him saying that to someone in an interview or on some talk show.  I don't know, maybe it's just me.  But when people say it wasn't his time or it was his time, I think to myself, what is time? All we have is now! And in the now, Prince is not here.  He has transcended. He has transformed.  He had punched a higher floor.  Say what you want to about the man, listen to the rumors, listen to the half-stories but remember the music. Remember the man on stage. Remember the humanitarian. Remember the performances.  Remember how he made you feel when you saw him live. Remember the thrill of the release of the new album.  Remember how he could make you party one minute, make you feel sexy the next and then bring you to tears the next with just his music.  These are the things you should remember. Thank you for listening to me ramble on but I needed to get this out.
Cuz in my dreams I roam
Just trying to find, trying to find
My way back, back home

Thank you, Prince, for gracing us with your gift and allowing us to be part of your journey.  It was a great ride but to paraphrase one of your songs, "isn't it a shame this ain't a movie, then I could rewrite Ur every line." Trust me, in the rewrite, there would be a much happier ending.  Rest in peace.  "Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet Prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!"

Thank you to the Pythian Princess and to Barbara for giving me the strength to write this.  May U both live 2 see the dawn!

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